Strong European telcos for EU tech leadership

Lise Fuhr Speeches

Europe is in the midst of change. As a new European Parliament and European Commission start working on a new wave of tech policies, the EU is trying to find its space in an increasingly competitive digital world.

Telecom companies are part of this quest for a fresh, renewed leadership in the digital space. With 5G, they can be part of the solution, too. 5G is now becoming reality in several European countries, with commercial roll-out taking off. We will soon have access to 5G-powered devices in our pockets, homes and cars. The R&D and investment efforts over the past years are now starting to have tangible outcomes. Is Europe ready to fully seize the opportunity, complete roll-out and fully digitize societies?

With great digital networks come great opportunities and investment!

Today, a European consumer consumes around 150 GB in fixed data and more than 3 GB in mobile data per month, on average. With 5G taking-off in more and more countries, the shift towards mobile data traffic will be steep and fast, but also empower several use cases across industrial sectors.

According to Analysis Mason estimates in ETNO’s State of Digital Telecommunications Report, there will be more than 100 million 5G connections in Europe by 2025. Internet of Things connections are expected to undergo an even more stunning uptake: 800 million subscriptions by 2025. In this context, more and more “traditional” industrial sectors will embrace 5G to digitally transform. For example, automotive will be propelled into the connected cars era, and the healthcare sector will see dramatic improvements in telemedicine and remote care.

Making all of this happen will require significant investment. According to BCG, the cost of accomplishing the task is above €500bn. Around 55% of this investment will be in fibre networks, 30% in radio access network and 15% in proximity data-centres. Europe needs strong pro-investment policy to help the sector deliver the leap.

A vision for EU tech leadership

As telcos contribute to building EU tech leadership via the development of new networks, ETNO has also launched a dialogue with stakeholders to create a shared vision on how to achieve this ambition. New digital networks and services alone will not be able to help positively transform society.

For this reason, we are gathering the views of user groups and tech representatives through ETNO’s “Dialogues for Tech Leadership”. A broad range of stakeholders called for the EU’s new policy and regulatory instruments to support digital developments by allowing more European innovation to flourish and by adopting forward-looking policies. These include the need for smart and evidence-based regulation, so that the EU could be equipped with more powerful tools to compete with other global superpowers. 

We see reasons to be optimistic. Ahead of the summer recess, the EU countries have sent a clear signal that Europe believes in mobile solutions and 5G as enablers of the automotive industry. In a milestone vote, they have rejected plans to exclude mobile systems (including 5G) from self-driving standards.

Spotlight on Sustainable Development Goals and inclusiveness

New digital networks and services are there for the economy, but also – and most importantly – to help us overcome some of the biggest societal challenges of today. There is a vast area of influence that can be leveraged through improved digital access. From a European perspective, as much as €4 billion in value per day from digitization (aggregated, on services) could be achieved by 2030. In more practical terms, this corresponds to €7 per EU citizen per day, which can trigger a new wave of socio-economic growth.

If we broaden the scope a step further, reports show how access to digital connectivity is directly linked to major socio-economic improvements. The UN has put forward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the aim of addressing major global challenges faced by communities across the globe. Studies identified a strong and positive link between digital access and the achievement of 65% of the SDGs.

We believe that exceptional opportunities and challenges require strong European political leadership in the technology space. We are committed to continue working with EU policy tech leaders, business representatives and citizen organizations in promoting an inclusive digital agenda for all EU citizens in the decades to come. Our participation in the panel session “Ministerial Roundtable: the role of government in 5G and high-capacity network deployment” at ITU Telecom World 2019 is an important step towards this goal.

About the Author
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Lise Fuhr

Ms. Lise Fuhr, Director General, European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO). Lise is ETNO’s Director General since January 2016. At ETNO, she leads and oversees all the activities and she is the main external representative of the Association. On behalf of the Association, she is also a Board and an Administrative Committee member in ECSO, the European Cybersecurity Organisation. Lise has also been appointed to the Internet Society Public Interest Registry Board of Directors for a three year term as of July 2016.